On Wednesday, the For Country Caucus advanced a slate of 12 legislative priorities that would help strengthen America’s national defense and improve the lives of service members, their families, and veterans transitioning to civilian life as part of the House 2022 Fiscal Year National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The 25-members of the non-partisan For Country Caucus worked within the caucus to build support across party lines and get their priorities into the bill. Their success in this year’s NDAA reflects the growing influence of the Caucus, particularly on the House Armed Services Committee, where 14 of its members sit.
“I’m proud of the work the For Country Caucus and our members have done to strengthen our national security and support American servicemembers in the NDAA,” Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Golden (ME-02) said. “We’ve used our experience as veterans and our commitment to working across party lines to push our national service and defense priorities forward as a caucus, wield the caucus’ influence on the Armed Services Committee, and get things done for the country. This success would not be possible without the For Country Caucus and it’s an honor to co-lead this group as we deliver results.”
Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Van Taylor (TX-03) stated, “The strongly held belief that we must support our servicemembers as they fight to protect our freedoms transcends party lines. Our bipartisan group of veterans in the For Country Caucus understands the impact a nonpartisan NDAA has on our men and women in uniform. Working together we were able to craft and pass important policy solutions within the NDAA to advance national security and support our servicemembers.”
"I am always proud to advocate for the needs of my district and our country through the National Defense Authorization Act markup process. This year's bipartisan legislation reflects our values and priorities, including support for our troops and enhancements to our national security capabilities," said Caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Carbajal. “As a veteran, I am pleased our troops will get a well-deserved pay raise. I am glad we are acting on climate change by taking steps to make our military assets more compatible with burgeoning wind energy opportunities. We have also taken a significant step to preserve the critical FireGuard program, which utilizes Department of Defense resources to help fight wildfires. This bill is a major win for our service members, our communities, and our country."
“Now more than ever, Congress must support our military through bipartisan legislation that promotes global security and stability,” said Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN).
“My military experience has given me a strong understanding of what our servicemembers need in order to fulfill their mission, and I believe this bipartisan NDAA successfully affirms Congress’ commitment to our armed forces and sets them up for success.”
The For Country Caucus and its members were able to secure 12 provisions in the bill, including legislation to:
- Provide family support programs for Gold Star family members of Special Operations Forces.
- Establish a basic needs allowance to help junior enlisted military families better meet the unique challenges of military life.
- Expansion of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program to at least 6,000 units by 2031.
- Improve access to postpartum depression and anxiety screenings, prioritizing the mental and physical health of servicewomen and dependents and ensure new moms are able to return to service by standardizing maternity leave and physical fitness recovery period across all branches.
- Establish a grant program for increased cooperation on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) research between the United States and Israel.
- Provide National Guard and Reserve service members equal incentive and special duty pays at the same rate as their active-duty counterparts.
- Update the National Guard’s 1095 rule to give flexibility to employ members into critical active-duty requirements in order to improve mission readiness.
- Help small businesses with grants to help create global Artificial Intelligence (AI) standards.
- Direct the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan about the needed investments required to develop and implement DoD strategy for a modern, robust digital ecosystem.
- Create new military software and artificial intelligence development career fields across the federal government.
- Expand the law and provides a confidential channel for service members to self-report mental health issues and help remove stigma from seeking mental health services.
- Authorize a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) open-season for VA-related service-disability veterans to re-enroll who withdrew prior to the "Widow's Tax" repeal and allows them to catch up on any missed premiums. The SBP allows a retiree to ensure, after death, a continuous lifetime annuity for their dependents.
The For Country Caucus was created in 2019 to bring together military veterans who are serving in Congress on both sides of the aisle, and who are committed to courage, integrity, and civility in public service. Since then, the caucus has helped to pass more than 15 bills into law, including legislation to:
- Repeal the widow’s tax;
- Requiring full military honors for veterans awarded the Medal of Honor or prisoner-of-war medal;
- Requiring senior military officials to meet with survivors of deceased service members to receive feedback on issues affecting survivors;
- Provide grants to assist homeless veterans;
- Create a “bill of rights” for military tenants; and
- Authorization of 4,000 additional visas for Afghan allies as well as extending the application period to 2021